Posts tagged ‘toddler’

September 22, 2013

Journaling my reflections on life

Gardner Village at night

Gardner Village at night

Lately, most of my writing has been very private. I’ve focused on my journals almost exclusively, detailing such events as my daughter’s first solo drive through a big city, another daughter’s busy schedule, and my toddler son’s newest adventures–somersaults and toilet training.

In my mind, these journal entries are tiny reflections of the lights in my life. They ripple easily when I touch them, blur with time, but they’re beautiful.

My daughters keep their own journals. My son is still to young to write, and too young to care that I write, except when I’m engrossed at my computer and he wants me to play with him.

Most often, he wins out. I can’t say that I regret it, and I doubt I ever will–although I do try to jot down paragraphs and sentences when I can. Sometimes I have to be sneaky. He knows the particular squeak of my office door.

My newest trick: I bring my work into his room, rather than my office, and watch him play while I edit, plot books, and network with writing friends by telephone.

Luckily for me, he knows some of my writing friends, and when I’m on the telephone with them, so is he, courtesy of the button that turns on the speaker.

This is sometimes good, since they dote on him and love to hear about his adventures (although I’m usually the one doing most of the talking). I love the proud smile he wears when they congratulate him on some milestone. It’s also sometimes not so good, when we’re trying to read passages aloud to each other. He has a very competitive voice.

Little by little, words on the screen are turning into stories, and daily events are becoming stories of their own. I wonder sometimes whether these more private moments will ever amount to something he’ll want to read, something that will make him feel as proud as writing friends on the telephone do.

It occurred to me, when I wrote about him earlier this evening, he may remember events entirely differently than they way I remember him. It’s all a vision, I suppose. When water meets the light, the reflections look different depending on where you stand.

I can always hope that he’ll see these written memories as something beautiful, something that can shine when he’s grown up enough to face his own long dark nights of the soul.





July 19, 2013

Writing tip: Don’t lose your timer

This is my office timer and, I suspect, home to Inspiration. (At least, she seems to come out more when I use this timer.)

This is (was) my dependable office timer.  I am currently experiencing a change in timer models, as described below.

I have this issue: I don’t want my toddler to play with my cell phone, but he loves it.

About two months ago, he wandered into my office, took the cell phone from my desk, sat down on the floor and started pushing buttons to make it beep. It was adorable, until he managed to get online. Then I had a terrific idea.

I traded the cell phone for my beloved kitchen timer, the one that gets me started on days when I need a boost.

I got back to work. I vaguely remember him standing up after a while and wandering out of the room with it, headed down the hall toward his own room.

It’s been two months now. Two months, and I can’t find it anywhere. I’ve looked all over the house, and I scoured his room. I’ve checked his toy box, his drawers, his book shelves, behind his bed and under the battered recliner in the corner of his room. I suspect I’ll find it in there someday. For now, I’m giving up.

 I finally broke down and bought a new kitchen timer. I have yet to warm up to it–and I’m amazed I feel so sentimental about my old timer–but I’m slowly getting used to the new one. Slowly. I’m making new memories. I will probably grow to love this one as much, given time and a few productive writing days that feel like successes.

Someday, I’ll look back and laugh and wonder why I was ever so dependent on a timer at all.

Meanwhile, I came across another interesting timer technique on Passive Guy. This one links back to author Ryan Casey and describes his experiences with something called the Pomodoro Technique. It allows him to write about 5,000 words a day.  I’m intrigued. I plan to try it one day early next week.

Also, if you’re interested in how Joss Whedon manages to be so prolific, you can read about it here at Fast Company.

Meanwhile, I’ve learned two important lessons: one, if I don’t want my toddler to play with my phone, I need to keep it out of reach–like on top of the filing cabinet–and two, if I want to use an office timer to stay productive, I really need to keep one around.


June 13, 2013

Chocolate windows: how loving myself frees me to write

Chocolate windows! :)

Chocolate windows! 🙂

I broke down yesterday and bought chocolate.

It was an extra-large Hershey’s Symphony bar, and as I unwrapped it to divvy it up among family members, the rectangles caught my toddler’s attention.

“Ta-cat win-now. Ta-cat win-now.” He pointed at the chocolate and said those words over and over, until I finally understood what he was seeing.

“Yes, those are chocolate windows. You can have one, two, three of them.”

He climbed into his booster seat and counted his pieces of chocolate with me. After that, he was too busy eating and smearing melted chocolate over the table top to pay much attention to me.

I ate my chocolate, too, but I saw it in a different way. An ordinary treat had become magical, simply because it was now full of windows.

It was dark glass, to be sure, and delicious…and it tossed my thoughts across the phrase “for now we see through a glass, darkly.” (Which, by the way, I first came across as a child, in a novel brought home from the bookmobile.)

I mused all afternoon on my life perceptions. The phrase still hadn’t left me this morning, but it condensed some, thickened and held when I ran my mind across the most important relationships in my life.

After a day and a half of musing, I realized two things:

  • The most important people in my life deserve for me to see them clearly and love them completely, unconditionally, the way they are.
  • That’s a lot easier to do than extending the same courtesy toward myself.

Still. I don’t think I can show love for the people in my life as completely and fully as I want to until I am able to do the same for myself.

Here’s the reason: they at least partially define who they are because of their connections to me and to who I am. I do them no favors by hiding any greatness in me that I find. I serve them best when I let my good points show.

I suppose it’s a matter of integrity, of living up to the highest and best ideals I hold in my heart.

Yesterday’s musings led to a day and a half of reviewing my personal rules for dealing with others. I have two main rules–one, always do everything in my power to withhold judgment or criticism from everyone else, and two, always do everything in my power to lift, build and bless every other human I come across.

This naturally extends into my writing. I want very much to write and write and write, to cover nonfiction topics that make people smile and to create novels that will bring joy to children and provoke thoughtful improvement in the life of adults. In my mind, it’s the new American Dream, and I am not alone in hoping that my writing will affect the world in some positive way–even if it’s a very small way.

But when it comes to myself, I find I’m very selfish.  On one hand, half the writing I do really is for myself alone, for the simple joy of putting words together. The other half tends to get tangled up in my ego. When that happens, I sometimes forget to withhold judgment and criticism from myself. I tear myself apart when I could be saving that criticism for the editing process alone, and for my writing alone–not for me as a person.

This is perhaps the darkest glass of all. It’s impossible to see myself clearly enough to love myself when I’m zeroing in on all my faults. It impacts the people I love, but it also impacts my writing by providing writer’s block, the fear of failure and other hurdles.

The truth is, I write best and most prolifically when I feel confident and secure in myself. Loving myself frees me to write.

When I’m in my zone and I’m alright with myself, every idea becomes a window to another world that I can’t wait to explore. Like many other writers, I have lists and lists of books I want to write.  These are ideas to savor and enjoy,to share with others, to lighten dark days with the joy of creation.

Perhaps they’re all just chocolate windows, and some of them will melt in the sun…but they’re delicious to me, just the same.

May 11, 2013

Mom taught me five strategies for balanced living

My beautiful Mom as a young woman

My beautiful Mom as a young woman

I’m a people-pleaser. This gets me into trouble sometimes, because I have this deep longing to make the world right for everyone around me.  I used to joke with my closest friends and extended family members about this.

“When I grow up, I’m going to be a fairy godmother and go around granting wishes and making people’s dreams come true,” I said.

The truth was, I half-meant it. After all this time, I still can’t think of a better way to live than to try to make other lives better and happier. I’m getting better at it, and most of the time it’s completely enjoyable.

The trouble arises when I allow my ego to get wrapped up in what I’m doing rather than in what I’m becoming. When this happens, I accidentally base my sense of self-worth on whether or not people are feeling happier because of my efforts.

Most of the time, I realize I can’t control the emotional choices others make, and I shouldn’t try to. I should just do what I can and then move on and respect the decisions they live by.  Every once in a while, I have to take a step back and re-prioritize my efforts.

This weekend has been such a time. After two weeks of doing all I could to please a variety of different people in a plethora of personal catastrophes, my life began to wobble.

It wasn’t the complete I’m-off-kilter-and-I’m-going-to-fall feeling, but I wasn’t feeling the calm balance that I seek for, either. And—because I write best when the rest of my life is balanced—this kind of living quickly becomes an issue for me.

There are a few people I trust in this world completely, enough to allow them to give me a talking to when I need it. This time around, it was my wonderful Mom who set me straight.

“You only need to worry about five things,” she said. “Say no to everything else, and the pieces of your life will fall into place.”

We stayed up well past one in the morning discussing those five things. These really aren’t new life strategies for me, but they clarify what allows me to live and write best.

  1. Physical wellness—I am physically not capable of making the world perfect, and I need to remember that. Otherwise, I get too busy fixing problems to eat, too wound up to sleep, too nervous to settle down at my desk and just write away. Because of this, I need to say no to some opportunities to help so that I can be well enough to help well when real crises occur. (Also, who wants a busybody trying to run things? Really?)
  2. Emotional/spiritual wellness—this is akin to the physical wellness, but it has more to do with how I view myself. It means extracting my ego from all the things I do, including my writing, and detaching myself from the outcome. I actually feel love better and deeper when I set my ego on a shelf in the back of my mind and just enjoy the processes of life. Writing comes more easily, too, because in this position I’m able to withhold judgment from even myself…it’s the whole hold-the-inner-critic thing that makes first-draft writing flow.
  3. Environmental wellness—Part of life’s greatest joy for me is to create a specific type of environment around me. I seek for peace and beauty, but it takes time to keep things clean and orderly, to plant and tend flowers and trees and gardens, to keep clutter at bay, to raise the living room blinds and allow sunshine to fill my home. I sometimes have to say no to other people so that I can make these things happen around me. It’s worth the effort, because this kind of environment makes my family just as happy as it makes me, and their happiness is something I will always seek for.
  4. Meaningful time with family and others—Beyond creating a happy environment, this includes reading aloud to my toddler, chatting with my teenage daughters, staying up way too late visiting with my Mom, going to see Iron Man 3 in the theaters with my sweetheart, etc. This also means prioritizing the volunteer opportunities that arise so that my energy can make the biggest impact where it’s needed most. Keeping commitments to programs I believe in, like the scouting program, is a part of that, but it too has to be kept in balance.
  5. Writing—It seems like the first four priorities feed directly into this one. I cannot write consistently and well if the rest of my life isn’t balanced. By the same token, the rest of my life feels incomplete if I’m not taking time to write every day. It’s part of the joy of my life.

I’m glad Mom was willing to stay up so late discussing things with me.  She is completely wonderful. She is the fairy godmother I’m going to be like when I grow up. 

May 2, 2013

Thoughts on getting to work halfway through the day

A completely random side note--I'm hungry for Spaghetti Squash and haven't been able to find any in the stores lately. Guess I'll have to plant my own this year!

A completely random side note–I’m hungry for Spaghetti Squash and haven’t been able to find any in the stores lately. Guess I’ll have to plant my own this year!

The dishwasher is running. The laundry is sorted. One daughter is studying chemistry, another practicing for her violin lesson, and my toddler is playing with his cars in his room. What about this seems unusual?

I think it’s just the I’m finally starting to catch up feeling that comes after a huge event.

Not that there’s been any huge event here…just a myriad of little things that seemed big at the time.

Yesterday was incredibly challenging that way. I woke with a knowledge that I had to start a new project, and it had to be right then. Every time I tried to work methodically, this project stared holes into the back of my head until I finally gave up. I spent the better part of the afternoon hammering out a decent outline and a first chapter of something I never intended to write–a political piece.

I promised myself I would never do such a thing. Now I’m not sure what I’ll do with it. I guess I’ll add it to my list of works-in-progress and just see where it goes.

This morning, I ran errands and did some shopping with two of my children, visited with the lovely BR Chaston about her wedding dress and nearly fell asleep on the way home. That meant I napped when we finally reached the house. Needless to say, now I’m staring at a to-do list that will refuse to be completed by nightfall, and that new project is dancing around the edges of my office, waiting for attention.

This time, it will have to wait.

Sometimes I don’t think my time management issues are all my fault. Sometimes I think my projects just don’t know how to take turns. They’re as demanding as any toddler.

I can’t help loving them.

On another note–I found poem I wrote in April but never published in my draft file. Rather than letting it sit there, I’m including it here:

e kingbird log crop

Eastern Kingbird

There’s more to majesty than thrones or crowns,

or crowds of admirers, applauding, lauding praise.

There’s more, even, than power. Freedom rises,

calls the royal heart into the air.

My throne is any place from which I sing.

Have a great day, everyone!

April 12, 2013

Friday Photo Poetry: My Son Turns Two

His toes, at two years old

His toes, at two years old

There’s a space between new life and breath–

A moment when eternity stands still,

And in that valley, wrapped in the shadows of death,

My mind saw much more joy than I could feel.

I saw you move, saw your chest begin to rise.

My own heart swelled with love as bright as song.

I saw you open infant eyes.

My son! I waited for you, oh so long!

Two years have passed now, quickly as a sigh,

Two years in which you grew, and I can say

it was worth the pain, the very chance to die

to be there when you first saw light of day.

April 3, 2013

Celebrating a met deadline

Looking down from a waterfall at Thanksgiving Point gardens

Looking down from a waterfall at Thanksgiving Point gardens

I met a deadline today. Beat it, actually, by one day, which was tricky. This particular article was one of the most intricate and challenging journalism assignments I’ve ever accepted, and although it’s still subject to editorial change, it feels good to have submitted it.

It’s like standing at the top of a mountain and watching worries fall away like drops of water.

I’ve been celebrating, these past few hours. Here’s how:

  • Dessert Club–I turned the final submission in just 33 minutes before two carloads of friends and their children (on Spring Break) showed up at my door. It was my turn to host–and I can’t say I was prepared–but it was a great stress relief. Delicious, too–I tried Strawberry Soup for the first time today. Yummy and healthy, too!
  • I took a nap with my toddler this afternoon. As pleasant as this is, he’s becoming less inclined to take afternoon naps, so I’m counting myself lucky.
  • I looked through a catalog my neighbor brought over. I love window shopping, even in catalogs or online, but it’s not something I take time to do very often.
  • I took a short walk with a daughter. While we were out, we chatted with some neighbors I hadn’t yet had the chance to meet. They’re lovely people. They felt like sunshine.
  • I walked over to another neighbor’s house and saw the beautiful quilt she’s making. Inspiring. Maybe I’ll pick mine up again.
  • I caught up on some blog comments (although I’m still looking forward to visiting other blogs and catching up with what my online friends are up to).

And here’s how I plan to celebrate during the rest of today:

  • take my daughters shopping for prom shoes;
  • file away all the papers and e-mails related to the article I submitted;
  • play in the sandbox with my toddler while it’s still sunny out;
  • buy a book for my Kindle; and
  • get back to work on my fiction projects this evening 🙂

Have a lovely evening!

March 26, 2013

A smoky but happy adventure day

Smoke from a wildfire

Smoke from a wildfire here in Utah, summer 2012

I woke this morning to the piercing beep of our carbon monoxide detector. Our basement was filled with smoke–especially frightening because two of my children sleep down there, and one NEVER hears her alarm clock. Thankfully, she got up when she heard my voice and went straight outside.

There was no fire–only smoke. Cold air apparently sunk down our chimney last night and pushed the smoke from our last fire, two days ago, out through the basement. It was enough to make my eyes water and my throat burn.

I’m grateful. It could have been a lot worse.

We opened several windows, set up all the fans we could find and even turned on our swamp cooler vent. The air upstairs is breathable now, but it’s cold, so two of my children and I are camping out in my office. There’s almost no smoke in here. The heat source in this room is electric, so there are no vents for the smoke to come through, and it’s cozy warm. As long as we keep the door closed, we’ll do fine–although I think a trip to the library later today may still be in order. 🙂

In an hour or so, when the smoke has cleared a little more from the basement, I’ll heat the chimney up with a hair dryer and then light a new fire. If I warm the chimney enough first, it should draw the rest of the smoke back up the chimney, and we’ll be able to close the windows, turn off the fans, and reheat the house. We can turn on our Scentsy and cook something delicious to make the air smell better.

Surprisingly, this it turning out to be a great day. It’s close quarters in my little office, but we’re having fun hanging out together while we work on our different projects.

Lots of little things are going on today– I’m blogging, of course, and working toward a deadline for an article assignment, writing some for a work in progress and editing a chapter of the pirate book. Meanwhile, one daughter is updating software on her laptop while she reads. My toddler is busy redecorating my bookshelves and rearranging a drawer in my filing cabinet. Another daughter, who truly values her privacy, has taken her laptop outside. She’s doing her schoolwork at the picnic table, and she seems perfectly content in spite of the cold.

It reminds me just a little of a few of our camp-out-in-the-basement days we had last summer, when the wildfires in Utah got so bad that the air was gray and the swamp cooler drew smoke into the house. It wasn’t as thick as it was this morning, maybe, but it was still a wonderful way to break the routine and bring my family together in a unique and fun way.

Inconvenient. That was the first word that came to my mind this morning. Now I’m calling it a blessing. How weird is that?

March 21, 2013

The Sneetches: a book that helped shape my life


Last week I bought two more books by Dr. Suess for my toddler. They’ll go into his Easter basket. I’m sure we’ll all have them memorized by April Fool’s Day–and I’ll probably regret this, but…I came home and ordered The Sneetches on Amazon. It should be here in time for his second birthday.

I have fond memories of The Sneetches. I remember checking it out from my grade school library. Mrs. Hansen, the school librarian, was the best storyteller I’ve ever known. I was only ever afraid of her on Halloween. She always dressed up like a witch and walked up and down the lunch line, talking to children about how tasty they probably were.

When I was sixteen, I was whisked away for a leadership retreat. A video of The Sneetches was a focal point for a great discussion on elitism and compassion and the importance of treating other people with respect and love. The best leaders, I learned, were the leaders who saw everyone as equals. They devoted their time and energy to serve the people around them, constantly, not caring about class or status of any kind.

When my first daughter was a toddler herself, we bought a bunch of Dr. Suess videos (they were musicals, even). I got soooooo tired of them. And now, today, I found myself with my son on my lap, looking up those same videos on YouTube.

These are happy memories. I can’t help but feel grateful–all that learning, all that fun came first from one book, from one writer.

March 20, 2013

Merging my writing time with the needs of a growing family

A random photo from my daughter's photo blog

A random photo from my daughters’ photo blog

Last Saturday my teenage daughters and I had our first-ever, all-sit-down-together Creative Project Planning Meeting.

I’ve mentioned before that one of my daughters likes to write. We sometimes talk about our books, daydream together about what they’ll turn out like, have fun laughing at ourselves and generally enjoy the process together.

Saturday’s meeting was something different. As part of our claiming day, it allowed us all to get an inside picture of the progress we’re making and the challenges we face as we pursue the goals we set for ourselves.

We took turns, starting with the youngest. We talked about all the different projects she has in the works, and I was surprised to discover she’s planned almost as many books as I have. She’s got a lofty goal of getting one story completed by the end of the school year.

While my other daughter likes to write, she’s much more interested in visual arts. She’s got a talent for manga and other drawing styles, but her real gift and interests are all wrapped up in photography right now. She has her own photo blog, which she started as a school project, and she’s involved in the online photography club for her high school. I like her work so well that I’ve asked her to take lots of stock photos I can use when I commission book covers (The Night Ones Legacy will be getting a new book cover soon, by the way). She’s planned some photo shoots and has some really great ideas.

From a time management perspective, this type of meeting was valuable in several ways:

  1. I realized that, tempting as it is, I can’t write all the time. My girls need me to come out of my office and encourage them in their own projects. This means I’ll be doing a little more work in the living room while they finish school projects. My productivity might suffer a little, but their happiness and their successes feel like personal successes to me. I can always come back to ambitious writing projects later. They’re only going to be here in my home for a short time, and I need to make the most of it while I can.
  2. The planning meeting helped us schedule around each other–I knew, for example, that I couldn’t ask one daughter to babysit my toddler son on one particular day. Rather than asking her and making her cranky, I made arrangements with the other daughter to babysit while I conducted a telephone interview.
  3. It’s also allowed me to see that I need to have a backup babysitter outside the home for times when neither daughter is available. I’ve known they were growing into young adults, but it really hit home during that meeting. They have their own distinct interests, which is beginning to translate into personal time tables that deserve courtesy and respect. I can ask them to help, I can even expect it at times, but I should never demand it. With my girls, polite requests seem to result in more help–and definitely more pleasant help–than a strict demand ever would.
  4. Following that meeting, I also knew what kind of help my daughters were looking for. That knowledge was freeing–I realized how easy it would be to squeeze a few minutes in with them and their projects at least a few times a week. It’s been four days since that meeting, but I can see progress already. Overall, it’s been a great week so far–productive and happy for us all. 

We had so much fun we decided to try it again this coming Saturday. I’m secretly hoping it will become a tradition for us.

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